Tuesday, June 24, 2014


‘X’ is for Xenophobia and more:
‘X’ is the 24th letter of the English alphabet but can boast of some potent, mysterious, innovative, thrilling and awesome attributes linked to its usage.  It prefixes a peculiar word (my choice), which expresses ‘exaggerated fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign’. The scary looking word is ‘Xenophobia’.
 It originated from Greek word ‘Xeno’- meaning strange or foreign and phobia of course is morbid or unfounded fear or dislike of something or of some people.

From the inception of history, it can be traced that the feeling of xenophobia has existed all over the world in the name of culture, race or religion. In its maddening conflagration, millions of innocents have been ghettoized, banished, tortured or brutally eliminated.

Perhaps Xenophobia or irrational hatred was the genesis of Hitler’s inhuman intolerance towards the Jews in Germany, which propelled him to exterminate them in cold blood. Even in Russia during Second World War where his forces had a flimsy victory for a short time, he mercilessly massacred Jews there. (Ref. a heart-wrenching story that I read)

However, I’m not discussing more 'X' words and this narrative is not going to help Spelling Bee contestants or Scrabble enthusiasts.

X’ surely enjoys many exotic, novel and interesting linguistic references. Its personality has the clear distinction of standing tall in many semantic allusions and paradigms.

Let’s examine some of the linguistic games, which this exclusive letter plays in the semantic field of our times:

X’ is a Roman numeral, which stands for the number10 and its multiples. ‘X’ is also a multiplication sign in Mathematics. It has an important place in science and algebraic equations.

In astronomy ‘X’ stands for a comet of unknown orbit.

The mighty looking ‘X’ is used for extra effect in the mad ad world, where scramble for eye catching and innovative tag lines is perennial. Often I have noticed X being substituted for 'ex' e.g. Xtra mileage or Xtra power in the ads for cars. XL lables (extra-large) clothing for expanded waistlines.

To hold the attention of newspaper readers or TV channel viewers, the news headlines often use the word ‘Xposé’ after unearthing some alleged fraud or criminality in high places for the actual word ‘expose’.

In the media, X-rated films are meant to be watched only by adults.

“X-ray” is a photographic or digital image of the internal composition especially a part of the body, produced by the x rays being passed through it…” Then luggage gets X-rayed at airports, hotels and other strategic places.

Xmas is shortened form of the holy word Christmas. Xian is the abbreviated form of Christian.

‘X’ is used as a mark for expressing negation as opposed to tick mark.

Generation X refers to those born after the baby boom ended i.e. from 1961 to1981.

‘X’ is used in genetics too. X chromosome is one of the two sex determining chromosomes in humans.

X-files is the name given to Sci-Fi Television series loaded with fear, thrill and suspense.

X P is one of Microsoft’s operating systems.

Last but not the least is the intriguing use of the word’  ‘X-Factor’. It is hard to define the meaning except that it refers to some quality, talent, or influence, which adds ‘wow’ element to the personality.

In spite of two successive flops, the actor is still sought after, because of some X- factor perhaps.

At least this write up has made me conscious of the exotic mystique of  this wonderful letter. 

Friends,welcome to share your views! 

Cartoon courtesy: Internet


  1. Wow...Xlent piece of work on X ...Uppalji.

  2. Had hoped that with globalisation xenophobia would be a thing of the past but not to be!

  3. Lots of great info here.

    abcw team

  4. Interesting, informative, innovative and scholarly too!
    In one word: XTRAORDINARY:)

  5. Xenophobia's opposite, xenophilia, is actually liking the foreign. Lots of good stuff here.


  6. In general, I think people are less xenophobic now, but there's a still long way to go. Very interesting, informative post.

  7. Nice list of X-words here. I love X-factor :)